Crawford, Hawks blank Predators to end road trip

Crawford: We're not getting ahead of ourselves, just taking it game-by-game

Crawford, Hawks blank Predators to end road trip
February 10, 2013, 10:15 pm
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Chicago Blackhawks hurriedly packed up their gear, their plane home, where they haven’t been in two weeks, waiting. But before they bid this lengthy road trip goodbye, they put a big exclamation point on it.

Patrick Kane scored his ninth goal of the season and Corey Crawford notched his first shutout since the 2010-11 season as the Blackhawks beat the Nashville Predators 3-0 at Bridgestone Arena on Sunday night. The Blackhawks wrapped up their six-game road trip with a 4-0-2 mark. They return to Chicago 10-0-2 overall, best in the Western Conference by five points over second-place Anaheim.

First shutout since April 21, 2011, when Crawford stopped all 36 shots he faced in a 5-0 postseason victory against the Vancouver Canucks. His last regular-season shutout was March 23, 2011, a 4-0 victory over Florida.

For the Blackhawks, it was another complete team game and one that had Crawford facing just 17 shots against the Predators. The Blackhawks had 14 blocked shots on the night, with Brent Seabrook and Nick Leddy recording three each.

“Crow was great in net and made some big saves. But everybody played well tonight,” defenseman Duncan Keith said. “The forwards were back-checking hard. For us defensemen, that makes a huge difference when we have that back pressure. We can stand up, have a good gap, and it makes our job easier, too.”

Still, a shutout is a shutout. And it was a weight off Crawford’s shoulders.

“Yeah, finally, that was good,” Crawford said, crediting the Blackhawks for the blocked shots and overall defense. “The guys played amazing in front of me. If you want to win, to be in the top of the league and win consistently, you need things like that throughout the season. The guys have done that thus far.”

Coach Joel Quenneville said, “we’ve had it sometimes where we were thinking, ‘let’s get that (shutout) over with.’ He made some big saves at the end to put that shutout away. It was nice for him to get that.”

The other task was scoring against Pekka Rinne, which has never been easy. But the Blackhawks broke through on him in the second period, with Marcus Kruger and Jonathan Toews tallying goals 66 seconds apart. Kruger’s was the first even-strength goal Rinne had given up in 316 minutes, 40 seconds, dating back to Jan. 28. Toews’ goal was a Keith backhand that deflected off the captain. Then Kane continued his torrid pace, scoring a goal that looked eerily similar to his Stanley Cup-winning goal in 2010.

Everything’s clicking for the Blackhawks right now, and they couldn’t have asked for much better results on this road trip. Far-flung travel, tough buildings – and a game in Calgary that goaltender Ray Emery flat-out stole -- the Blackhawks kept finding a way to churn out points.

They’ll be a happy bunch to finally return home. They’ll be even happier to play at the United Center the way they have on the road.

“I think our team’s done a good job of staying in the moment and taking it game by game,” Keith said. “I don’t think we knew who we were playing next the whole road trip. We weren’t looking ahead. Guys are playing hard and playing a good team game right now.”